Action News exposes absent Atlantic City attendance officer

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (WPVI) -- Nicholas Russo has been Atlantic City Public Schools' Lead Attendance Officer since 1994.

His job description is to monitor student's attendance.

However, what Russo doesn't know, is that Action News was monitoring where he was spending the hours while he was supposed to be on the clock, working for your tax dollars.

On Thursday, March 27th, Russo's timesheet says he is at work.

His contracted hours: 7:40 a.m. - 2:40 p.m. At 10:40 a.m., we find him at home.

He quickly leaves around 10:45 a.m. and takes off - passing his office at the high school - on the way to Esthetica Spa and Salon in Northfield, New Jersey.

He arrives at around 11:00 a.m. and a half hour later, he heads out and to his next appointment at Hannah's Massage in Absecon.

His rub down lasts over an hour until around 1:05 p.m., when he washes his car and returns home by 1:35 p.m. without setting foot in a school.

The next week, on Thursday, April 3rd, Russo calls in sick.

We find him at home around 9:00 a.m. He leaves at 10:26 a.m. and goes to Finale hair salon in Brigantine.

He loses us, but we track him down back at Esthetica at 11:30 a.m. His appointment lasts until around 12 noon.

We find him back at his home around 1:40 and, an hour later, Russo hops on his bike and hits the boardwalk, all while he is supposed to be home sick.

On Thursday, April 24th, Russo's time card says he is working.

We find him at home at 9:00 a.m. He drives off around 9:21 a.m., washes his car, and makes a late entrance into work around 9:38 a.m.

We catch up with him at his Thursday appointment at Esthetic around 11:51 a.m., and he leaves and heads to lunch at the China Sea of Absecon at 12:25 p.m.

There we find him lunching with two women, he says his goodbyes and arrives at Russo's Liquor Store, a side business he owns on the Atlantic City strip.

He leaves Russo's by 1:55 p.m. and he is back at his house by 2:04 p.m. for the rest of his work day.

Action News confronted Russo and asked what he was doing at Esthetica Spa on Thursdays.

"I get a manicure on my lunch hour, it's 20 minutes. That's what I do," he said.

What about Hannah's massage?

"Sometimes on my lunch hour I'll get a 45 minute massage real quick to help with the pain so I don't have to take pain medication," he said.

We then showed Russo our video.

Documenting three and four hour periods over several days, Russo went to another massage parlor, back to Esthetica, and washed his car, going just about anywhere but work.

What's was his response?

"I have no comment," said Russo and walked away.

After we provided Superintendent Donna Haye with our video last week she says she immediately suspended Russo, saying his actions were never approved or allowed.

"His job was to make sure children go to school. There was no excuse for what he did. There is no excuse," said Haye.

On Monday, Russo turned in his unconditional resignation, after 20 years at the district, and a week after we exposed what he was doing on the taxpayer's time.

That sick day, Supt. Haye says, should have been a personal day.

"We do not condone it, we are investigating it," she said.

Supt. Haye also released the following statement:

I viewed the videotape you sent me on Wednesday, May 14. I immediately suspended Mr. Russo. On Friday, I was notified by our Board Labor Counsel that Mr. Russo would unconditionally resign his position today and I received his resignation this morning. As of today, Mr. Russo is no longer an employee of the Atlantic City School District.

However, on behalf of the School District, its children and its taxpayers, we will still conduct an investigation into what occurred and take such action as may be appropriate. Mr. Russo's actions were never approved or allowed. In no way do we condone or tolerate the behavior demonstrated in the video and once our investigation is complete, we will re-examine our policies and procedures.

Even though Russo is no longer an employee, the district's investigation will continue on behalf of the district, the kids, and the taxpayers.

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